“Some days when I go on a fire, I’m actually scared. A lot of people don’t admit that they’re scared; I personally think they’re crazy.”
That could be a quote from a character on Dick Wolf’s long-running hit Chicago Fire, but actually it from Dushone Roman, an active Los Angeles County firefighter/paramedic in Wolf’s new nonfiction series LA Fire & Rescue. (Admittedly, Roman is attractive and charming enough to pass for an actor portraying a TV first responder.)
Below, the veteran, who works out of Station 172, in Inglewood, a diverse city in SW L.A., talks about his job/s, the July 26 episode that highlights a dangerous conflagration in his city, and how much he enjoys watching Chicago Fire. Plus, watch an exclusive sneak peek of Roman above.
You’re both a firefighter and a paramedic! Is that common?
Dushone Roman: Here in California, a majority of our firefighters are both. We all have to come in as entry level EMTs, and you can spend another six months of training and go to paramedic school. As paramedics, we get to push drugs to help people and perform further interventions. [We see him attempt to revive an opioid overdose victim.]
How does splitting your time between firefighting and your paramedic duties work?
You never really turn off the paramedic part. My station has an engine and a squad; the engine does more of the firefighting, and the squad will do the paramedic aspect. Together, we’ll go to calls, so we can fight a fire and go straight to a medical call for chest pain! And vice versa.
You publicly admit sometimes you’re scared on a fire call. What’s been your most challenging experience?
I’ve had many challenging days, The most hectic days are on fires. I can deal with the physical aspect of those, but when it comes to babies getting hurt or any bad medical calls with children, those tend to hit home for me. That slows me down and puts me in a fatherly role where I want to make sure that the outcome is 100 percent good.
What makes you happiest in your job?
People call us at their worst and leaving someone safer or better than they were when they called, that’s the joy of this job. We never come to cause havoc, but to make people’s day better. There are many reasons why I love this job, but amongst that is just helping people.
The July 26 episode centers on what’s called “a career-defining” job in an industrial warehouse — sounds big. Tell us more.
It’s a huge fire. They call it career-defining because fires are uncommon these days. We’ve got good prevention like sprinkler systems and emergency personnel, but this one was multiple alarms. Lots of [first responders] were there, but another firefighter, Michael Anderson, and I switched jobs that day, and I hopped on squad, so I was on a trauma call with a downed motorcycle patient who had a severe leg injury. I was mad because I wasn’t on that fire, but I got a chance to help out on the back end.
Is it true that you are a big Chicago Fire fan?
It is! I don’t really tell a lot of people, because they tend to give you a lot of crap for it, but I actually love the show.
What’s most accurate about the show? Do some things make you laugh because of their inaccuracy?
I love the back-and-forth banter. That’s exactly what we do in the fire services. Watching Chicago Fire brings back memories of what we do. They get things right for the most part, but in the medical scenes, there’s funny EMS stuff, say, where oxygen on people’s face are placed on wrong.
Who are your favorite Chicago Fire characters?
I like Mouch [Christian Stolte]. He’s a senior guy, and he just gets it. He’s cool and laid back. I can relate more to Joe Cruz [Joe Minoso]. He loves the job, he’s still kind of hip, and he can still relate to the older crowd. But those are my guys. One day hopefully, they’ll stop at 172, and we’ll have a chat.
How about the women on the show? Does your house have any females on duty akin to Miranda Rae Mayo’s Lt. Stella Kidd?
We don’t at the moment, but we had two great women here for years, and they recently got promoted and went on to other stations. As for Stella Kidd, that’s my girl! Wish I had the chance to meet her, she’s pretty cool.
Any dreams about visiting the set?
It would be awesome to cameo on the show and meet the crew. I know they have at least one actual Chicago firefighter on the show — Tony Ferraris, who plays Tony — but we need to bring our LA flair over there. We got to make that happen. I would love to hop on one of their engines or squads and be in the backgrounds holding some tools. I promise I won’t say much. [Laughs] But I’ll have a big smile.
In Chicago Fire’s fictional firehouse 51, the team is a family more than anything else. Is that true in your real-life Station 172?
It’s the family dynamic that comes together that makes 172 special. We represent the community, and that makes it special as well. I probably will never have that dynamic again, so I would stay there for a very long time if I could.
What’s it like being followed around by cameras while you work? Did everyone at 172 agree to it?
We were back and forth on it. Firefighting is a macho industry, where most of the time, if it’s not training, we don’t like to portray it. There are few depictions of us being candid, so we were kind of iffy about it. But once we actually started doing it, the cameras kind of just faded away, and we fell into our normal day-to-day operations. You can tell when we started out, we didn’t know what to say and how to act, but as it went on, we were flying with it. Now I’m glad I got to do it because my kids [seven-year-old twin boys] can see their father doing some cool fire department stuff. I’m happy with what came out.
You mentor youngsters about joining the fire department. Would you like your boys to join the department?
I would be honored if they were firefighters. I try to tell them to be something bigger and better, but I would definitely stay on the job longer to work with them if they became firefighters. It would be one of my life’s greatest achievements to ride an engine with my kid.
LA Fire & Rescue, Wednesdays, 8/7c, NBC